After my jaw-dropping whirlwind experience of Singapore, I caught an Air Asia flight to Kuta, Bali along with my partner in crime for the week, Mandi, an old friend from high school. Our final destination being Gili Trawangan, we only spent one night in Kuta on route, and it was an intriguing introduction to Indo.
I’d read some horror stories about Air Asia flights but the flight was quick and painless, and basically just like any low cost domestic flight back home in South Africa. I’d already sorted out a two month tourist visa before I arrived, but even if I hadn’t, the transfer process through immigration is chilled.
The chaos on arrival at Bali airport would have probably been a little overwhelming if I wasn’t expecting it or if I’d been alone at the time, being thrust into a teaming mass of touts persistently offering a taxi, but you really just need to act like you know where you’re going. No matter how many times or how firmly you say no, they will keep coming and keep nagging. Just keep walking. When we got outside the terminal, we haggled very briefly with a few Blue Bird (and other nameless) taxi drivers to gauge the price they were offering, but decided to use Grab (an Asian version of Uber) instead, as it was way cheaper, setting us back a total of ZAR30 (roughly $2.50) for the 10 minute trip to our hotel.
We stayed overnight at Eden Hotel in Kuta, which was perfect for our overnight stay, being close to the airport and main strip. Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived so they upgraded us to a poolside room (5 stars for epic service), and after enjoying our first Bintang in the pool, we headed out for the rest of the afternoon and evening, exploring the electrifying chaos that is Kuta, Bali.
We walked through the bustling markets and down to the main beach strip and parked ourselves on the plastic chairs that line the beach, sipped on Bintang and watched the sun set, trying desperately to overlook the heartbreaking state of the beach (which you can read about here if you haven’t already.)
After sunset, we headed down the beach road and then turned back towards the hotel to find a spot to eat on the way, ending up at Warung Minda, which is an awesome spot filled with an eclectic mix of Indonesia decor juxtaposed with black and white images of musicians on the walls. There was a live cover band called Nulite playing, who were impressively tight, with an extensive setlist and jammed some very notable covers on request. They played a Muse cover for me and I was more than suitably impressed (and mildly amused at some of the English mispronunciation at times), and we ended up staying for all three of their sets before wandering the streets for another few hours.
There’s music everywhere, fighting for sound space in the cramped streets, which adds to the electrifying chaos that surrounds you at every turn. You get used to the constant nagging from people you pass by pretty quickly, and find yourself saying no before they even start trying to sell you sarongs, necklaces, bike rentals, dope, mushrooms, ecstasy, snorkeling trips… basically anything anyone might ever need. A few guys tried to sell me “something”, but I didn’t ask what “something” was because I’m pretty sure that I don’t need it. The one thing I don’t think I’d ever get used to is the kids begging on the street, some with small wares to flog, some without, following and hanging on you with a broken look in their eyes.
I wouldn’t stay in Kuta for any longer than a night, and only to be close to the airport for transfers, but I found it intriguingly overwhelming (which is strangely a good thing) to experience my first night in Indo there.